Jay Solomon

The Canadian Federation of Students: Scandals & Hypocrisy

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is a national student association that claims to represent – and work on behalf of – 650,000 college, undergraduate, graduate, part-time and international students from coast to coast.

Just one week into the school year, the CFS is once again doing damage-control in the wake of a fresh round of scandals and hypocrisy.

Earlier this week, the University of Toronto’s student-run newspaper, The Varsity, revealed that a CFS audit has uncovered some pretty shady accounting practices. Such an allegation should, in and of itself, be cause for concern. However, when you stop to realize the CFS collects money directly from the pockets of hard-working students through mandatory levies collected by the University, such an allegation becomes an even greater concern.

The Varsity reports:

In advance of the Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS) semi-annual General Meeting this June, the organization released a forensic review summary consisting of a summary report and summary audit of the hidden bank account it operated, which was exposed in 2014. The CFS has declined to release the full forensic review.


The summary, conducted and published by accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP, revealed that an unauthorized total of $263,052.80 in deposits and $262,776.13 in withdrawals were made between July 2010 and December 2014.


You read that right: a hidden bank account – and a refusal to release the full forensic review. That the CFS would play fast and loose with students’ money – to the tune of more than a quarter-million dollars in unauthorized deposits and disbursements should raise alarm bells. Students who pay these fees across Canada are right to question the legitimacy and the value of the very existence of the organization claiming to represent and speak for them.

But the case against the CFS doesn’t end there.

The Ontario branch of the CFS has launched a new campaign they’re calling “United for Equity.”

According to their website:

The United for Equity campaign aims to challenge all forms of discrimination and oppression on our campuses, in our communities, and in our student organizing spaces. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of oppression can affect how certain groups of people access post-secondary education and perpetuate inequities in society based on gender, race, socio-economic status, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, citizenship status and other factors.

 Surely an attempt to curb discrimination and banish those who work to oppress the rights and well-being of others – especially minority groups – should be lauded and supported. The problem is, when it comes to the Jewish and pro-Israel community, CFS-Ontario’s actions are directly contradictory to the language of their latest charm offensive.

The CFS cannot credibly claim, given their track record on the issue of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, to be against antisemitism.

In the summer of 2014, at their annual general meeting, CFS-Ontario adopted a motion endorsing BDS against Israel. While BDS advocates manipulate the language of human rights as cover for their agenda, the obvious outcome of their stated demands is the end of the world’s only Jewish state – as openly professed by one of the founding fathers of BDS, Omar Barghouti.

According to the Ottawa Protocol – an internationally accepted definition of antisemitism, endorsed by the Government of Canada – denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination is an example of antisemitism.

For an organization with a mandate to represent all students – and which claims to oppose antisemitism and advance inclusion – the CFS’ position on Israel is a slap in the face to Jewish students. Every student has a right to determine their own identity free from prejudice on campus. For the vast majority of Jewish students, wherever they may be on the political spectrum, a connection to Israel – the indigenous land of the Jewish people – is a core element of Jewish identity. It is outrageous for the CFS to adopt a policy that directly alienates a minority community on campus and amounts to discrimination on the basis of national origin (which, itself, is banned by various human rights codes across Canada).

So, which is it CFS? Are you against antisemitism, or are you in support of the discriminatory BDS initiative that singles out Jews and those who support the world’s only Jewish state? You can’t have it both ways. Though we’re not surprised, as an organization caught using a hidden bank account, you thought no one would notice the hypocrisy.

About the Author
Jay Solomon is the Chief Advancement Officer for Hillel Ontario.
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